Saturday, August 3, 2019

Have you made your social media an idol?

To post or not to post... and what should I post? (aka: The social media idol)

Over the last 5-10 years an alarming trend has developed with respect to social media and the way Christians utilize its many avenues.  As I have been reading ahead of myself in preparation for sermons on Matthew’s gospel I had a thought while reading through Matthew 6 that I think may be helpful to us as we think through how to live pleasing lives for
Christ, even while we are online.

Recently I’ve noticed more and more of my brothers and sisters in Christ making a point to announce to social media when they are having, about to have, or have had a time of private prayer and Bible study.

Let me preface this by saying that it is not my intention to impugn anyone’s motives or judge their heart, but simply to make an external observation and perhaps a warning.

In Matthew 6:5-6, Jesus is teaching about the self righteous arrogance of the Pharisees who love to pray loudly and in public in order to be seen…

Matthew 6:5–6 - [5] “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [6] But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV)

Culturally I doubt many would stand in the public square praying loudly with arms outstretched and their Bible open for study these days...  short of some open air preachers in the right context. However, is it possible that such posts online, whether the poster realizes it or not, are being made with a similar heart behind them?

Certainly some are. I know of at least one who has, in years past, posted for such reasons as to be ‘liked’ on social media and seen as super-holy.  Am I being judgmental of that person and their motives?  Yes, I am, because I know their motives well for that person was me. 

It’s been some time since I stopped but my stopping came from more of a pulling away from spending so much time on social media in general rather than by conviction of post content. Though now I am having this conviction and will have to be all the more careful of the temptation.

Is there a place for posts such as the ones I mentioned?  Sure there are.  Is everyone who makes such a post doing so to be noticed and appear to be super-holy? No, I do not believe it would be fair to say that all such posts spring forth from “self” motivated desires.

However, consider this, beloved, could it be wiser for us to examine our hearts before we post something not just to examine the appropriateness of the content but also our motive behind it?

Some of our brethren are likely posting such things out of sheer enjoyment of posting their daily activities on social media. We live in a world that believes that our every move of the day is of utmost interest to everyone online. 

It could also be that in posting every detail of your life, particularly your spiritual devotion time to Christ, you could be coveting 'likes.'  Had you thought about that?  When you open your preferred social media platform... how do you feel when you see there are notifications?  How do you feel when there are none?  How do you feel when there are notifications but they turn out to not be "likes" that demonstrate how much others watch and follow your activity?

We can save the discussion of how much of our lives should be posted for public consumption some other time.  I would add, though, that it has been wisely observed by Dr. John Piper that when that Day comes, and we stand before the Lord, facebook, instagram, twitter, and the like will stand as glaring proof that our lack of prayer and time spent in the Word did not come as a result of a lack of time in our daily schedules.

Is it necessary that I post a picture of my Bible and cup of coffee before I spend time alone in the Word?  Is it necessary or even helpful for someone to post a picture of a beautiful sunset with captions like “Enjoying some prayer time with my Lord in His beautiful creation.”?  Such posts may find that they have a small place of appropriateness here and there but on the whole, they are not useful to the individual nor the body corporate.

Jesus seems to indicate that when we spend time praying we should do so privately and secretly.  That is not to say that there is not an appropriate time for corporate prayer, but our private devotional life should be largely kept between us and the Lord.

We may not be tempted to go and stand in the public square and raise loud prayers with many words any longer, but is it possible that the new way that this happens in our lives is in how close to God we want others to believe we are by manufacturing that persona online?

If you are not an avid consumer of social media, consider yourself blessed.  I often cannot decide whether I believe it to be truly helpful or harmful. 

May God continue growing us all to look more like Christ as we think through how we should live in this world.

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